Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers — the equivalent of King Abdullah’s Cabinet — has been busy this week.
First off, it has approved new laws governing the non-Saudi mothers of Saudi children, extending to them most of the basic rights enjoyed by Saudi citizens. Among these is that they will be allowed to live in Saudi Arabia without a sponsor, can obtain their own residency permits, and will count as Saudis when it comes to the Saudization of the workplace.
The Cabinet also approved a new anti-cyber-crime law that brings it into accord with those of other GCC states in trying to deal with extremist websites and Internet presences. While the intent is certainly understandable, the details of the law are not entirely clear. They run the risk of reducing freedom of expression through abuse. It is very easy — too easy — for governments to cry, “Sedition! Terrorist!” when they come across things that criticize them or suggest alternative view points. It’s not an easy matter to regulate (is regulating the Internet possible?).
Finally, in this Saudi Gazette summary, the Council condemns Israel as the cause of all the current Middle East stability. That’s a stretch, I believe. While Israel is certainly not helping the Palestinians with its continued expansion of settlements, Israel is not, in fact, the primary cause of the revolutions sweeping the region. It has been claimed as the cause by many now-defunct leaders out of political convenience, but Israel and Israeli policies have next to no actual effect on the day-to-day lives of Arabs. This commentary, I think, is simple throw-away material that the Cabinet felt necessary to reaffirm its regional bona fides.
Non-Saudi mothers of citizens get their rights
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH – Non-Saudi mothers of Saudi citizens are now entitled to enjoy most of the basic rights and privileges of Saudi women, according to a landmark decision taken by the Council of Ministers here on Monday.
The weekly session of the Cabinet, chaired by Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, approved a number of regulations in this regard.
Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the Cabinet approved granting non-Saudi mothers permanent residence status in the Kingdom without a sponsor. The State will bear their housing cost and allow them to work for others in the private sector. Employing such women will be counted in the percentage of Saudization.
Dr. Khoja said that non-Saudi mothers will be treated as Saudi nationals in terms of receiving general and university education as well as medical treatment in government hospitals. The Cabinet approved deleting paragraph three of its earlier decision which said that Saudi children of non-Saudi widows will be their sponsors according to Iqama regulations. Approval was also given for deleting paragraph five of the same decision which said that the sponsors have to meet non-Saudi widows’ living expenses if they were not able to work due to a legal obstacle.